Thursday, June 30, 2011

Indigo Buntings; May Migration to Northern Illinois

An Indigo Bunting graced our backyard feeder this spring, Rockford, IL; 5/7/2011.
I was both surprised and pleased when I saw a flash of bright blue pass our living room window late mourning in the first week of May. Upon investigation, I witnessed an Indigo Bunting picking away at the seed in our open feeder amidst a gross of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks which have been monopolizing the feeders for about a week at that point. Little Indigo stayed for a few minutes then flew off (I have not seen him at our feeder since). Our neighbor told Val a day later that a pretty blue bird was at her feeder the day after. (She stold my bird!). The grass is always greener ...

An Indigo Bunting, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve, Rockford, IL; 5/16/2010.
There is an area in Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve, where I have had good luck spotting Indigos. This spring was no exception. Even though I have been lucky enough to run across Indigo Buntings several times during my May birding expeditions to the local locations, I am always happy to see one. There isn't any other bird that looks quite like an Indigo (Eastern Bluebirds and Blue Jays have blue, but neither are as solid blue as an Indigo). I think I can safely say that this Bunting is one of my local favorites.
An Indigo Bunting keeping a wary eye on me, Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 6/5/2011.
This spring, I started exploring a different area of Rock Cut State Park - the dog-training area - which is turning out to be a great place for birding - when there aren't a lot of dogs scaring the birds away, that is. This is where I spotted the Indigo (Above).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baltimore Oriole, May Migration through Northern Illinois

The brilliantly colored Baltimore Oriole, Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 5/8/2011.
Once Baltimore Orioles (Above) arrived to our area for the summer, they came in strong. I saw more Orioles in more places this May, than  can remember from the past previous two years when I would have been paying attention. In early May, I was lucky enough to be able to watch an Oriole nest being constructed. Oriole nests are very unique in that they are built more like hammocks (Below) as they hang off of the tree branch instead of sitting on the branch like most birds who nest in trees.

A pair of Baltimore Orioles oversee their nest in Rock Cut State Park; 5/8/2011.
This nest (Above) was in full view as it was being built in early May when there was little foliage on the trees. But only a week or two later in mid May, when the leaves filled out, this nest was completely camouflaged and hidden to the average passerby.

NOTE: To Manoj of Peoria, who asked about good locations for birding near Peoria.
      Personally I don't know much about birding in the Peoria area (other than visiting there a couple of times). However, I have heard that the Chautauqua National Wildlife Preserve near Havana (which isn't far from Peoria) is an excellent place to spot birds. Below are a couple of links to a websites that mention birding in the Refuge... good luck - happy birding.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Least Flycatcher, May Migration through Northern Illinois

A Least Flycatcher, Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL: 5/8/2011.
Another bird that arrived to our area of northern Illinois in early May, was the Least Flycatcher (Above). When I first spotted this little guy, I was unsure about what kind of tyrant flycatcher it was, but its short "CHEbek" song and later looking at my photos, its shorter bill and wingtips told me it was a Least and not an Acadian Flycatcher, which would have been the only other logical choice of this type of flycatcher with such a bold white eyering. I was happy to have finally spotted this flycatcher as it added to my life list.
A BIF of a Least Flycatcher, Rock Cut State Park; 5/8/2011.
I was also lucky enough to catch it in some open areas for some clear photos and to get a decent BIF shot ("bird in flight") (Above), as it flitted from branch to branch in a close by brushy area. Flycatchers like the Least of the 'empidonax' species are generally drab olive green on their head and back with obvious wing stripes and lighter (whiteish / yellowish) underneath.
Another look at the Least Flycatche, Rock Cut State Park; 5/8/2011.
Northern Illinois is on the very southern edge of the Least's summer range.  It is more common north of here from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and northward into Canada. It is also found east to the Atlantic coast, but is rarely found west of Montana. During Winter months, except for the extreme southern tip of Florida, it will leave the U.S. for the warmer climates of Central America. At the least, I was greatful for the chance to see and photograph the Least Flycatcher, which became #290 on my Life List.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sora Rail & Marsh Wren, May Migration to Northern Illinois

A Sora Rail peaking through the cattails in Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 5/9/2010.
Two years ago in late May, I was quietly tiptoeing across a small boardwalk over a marshy area of Rock Cut State Park, when I heard the loud chattering of a Marsh Wren which was the one and only time I ever saw one - at least that I could identify. It was obviuosly upset that I came too close to its probable nest somewhere in the tall cattails growing majestically out of the marsh. The wren showed itself briefly in the thick reeds for me to get somewhat of a picture - albeit unsharp (Below). It flitted quickly and efficiently through the thick cattails and I never really got another good look at it as it stayed hidden near the bottom of the reeds just above the water's edge. When it seemed to disappear, I told myself that I'd be back to try my luck for a better photograph.
A blurry image of a Marsh Wren in the Cattail Marsh, Rock Cut State Park; 5/31/2009.
Well, for the next two years, I returned to that location many times since, and I never saw or heard any more signs of a Marsh Wren. A year later (2010) while doing my weekly search through that marsh, I caught a glimpse of some movement in the reeds below the boardwalk beneath my feet. I saw a chicken-sized bird with a large yellow bill and large yellow feet high-stepping through the shallow water in the thick cattails - barely visible. I've never seen a bird like this before, but suspecting it was a type of Rail (because of the habitat and the thinness of the bird's body). I held my breath hoping I could get a focus on it through the dense reeds. I had a feeling it didn't know I was there and it was caught by surprise - but I was able to focus through the reeds to get a partial pic (Top) before it slunk away. Because of the thickness of the cattails, it couldn't move very fast, and I was able to get a couple more pics (Below) before it escaped my viewfinder under the boardwalk.
Another glimpse of the Sora Rail, Rock Cut State Park; 5/9/2010.
Later upon sifting through my digital pics of the day, I was able to identify the rail as a Sora Rail. They have a large bright yellow bill with a black face on a mostly gray head and breast, with a brown crown and nape. The gray and brown give way to a more speckled (white and dark brown mixed with the reddish brown and gray) back and wings. It was fun to watch as it carefully high-stepped over the water's surface with their long yellow legs and toes. Their name comes from their very thin body width ("as thin as a rail"). They are somewhat uncommon, but can be found in marshy areas throughout the upper third of the U.S. from the Dakotas to the Northeastern states. In the eastern half of the U.S. , northern Illinois is on the southern edge of its summer range. They can be found throughout Canada and the West from the Pacific coast to the Plains states. In winter they will migrate to the southern edges of the U.S. along both coasts and the Gulf and southward into Mexico.
In summer, Marsh Wrens can also be found in marshy areas (no surprise there) in the northern half of the U.S. and into the southern edges of Canada. They will spend their winter months in the southern third of the U.S. and into Mexico.
Now I had two good reasons to return to this spot in Rock Cut State Park, but, alas, like the Marsh Wren, despite my repeated attempts to find the Sora, I never saw it again. I was disappointed this spring that this marshy area of Rock Cut hasn't produced much for birds - no Marsh Wrens, no Rails and not even the usual Tree Swallows. But I will keep trying hoping for their return and allowing me to see them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lousiana Waterthrush; May Migration through Northern Illinois

Is this a Northern or Louisiana Waterthrush?
Espenscheid Forest Preserve, Rockford, IL; 5/1/2011.
When I took the photo of the waterthrush (Above), I wasn't sure what type of warbler it was. After researching and identifying it as a waterthrush, I wasn't sure what type of waterthrush it was - the Louisiana Waterthrush or the the more common Northern Waterthrush.  Now I have seen a Northern Waterthrush before (in Mexico last winter) as it had more yellow on its belly than the Louisiana, so I concluded that it must be a Louisiana, but as I read further, I found that Northern's can also have a white breast and belly beneath the brown streaking. So then I had to check its other identifying marks: the Louisiana has a slightly larger bill and a slightly more broad white eyebrow than the Northern. Again being a novice at bird identification, unless I saw them side by side, I don't think I could make a definite identification. So then I had to resort to listening to its song. When I went to a couple of bird sights on the Internet ( and ) to listen to each of their songs, I knew what I took a picture of was a Louisiana Waterthrush, because its song is what I was hearing while hiking through Espenscheid Forest Preserve.
A Louisiana Waterthrush, Espenscheid Forest Preserve, Rockford, IL; 5/1/2011.
As luck would have it, I caught two different Louisiana Waterthrushes on digital film the same day, but in two different parts of the Preserve (Above).  Louisianas will spend their summers by forested streams and wooded swamps of the eastern half of the U.S. - south to Lousiana (of course), Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, but north of the Gulf Coast, and northward to central Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rose-breasted Grosbeak; May Bird Migration through Northern Illinois

A gross of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at our backyard feeder, Rockford, IL; 5/7/2011
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Above) invaded our yard during the first week of may this spring. It started out on May 3, with a lone female (Below), then a day later a male showed up. Two days after that (May 5) at least a half dozen (3 males and 3 females) appeared. Then by May 7, I counted more than a dozen at one time feeding at our feeders and perching in our backyard trees. I was delighted, as these Gosbeaks became the 35th different species to appear in our yard in the past two years, since I have been keeping track.

A lone female Rose-breasted Gosbeak appeared, Rockford, IL; 5/3/2011
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks will spend summers in the northeast quadrant of the country and spread north into eastern and central Canada, but migrate south to Mexico and Cenral Ameica for the winter. I saw a couple of them in Mexico last Christmas. The male grosbeaks (Below) are very colorful with a bright triangle of red on its breast contrasting with a white belly and a black head and throat.  Females (Above) lack the red and black, and are more brownish gray with a very boldly striped head, and have course dark brown streaks over the top of a tannish / yellowish breast and white belly. Both genders have a light grayish / pinkish bill, which is very thick and haeavy, and by which it receives its name.
A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Rockford, IL; 5/7/2011

A pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Rockford, IL; 5/7/2011
Now that they have discovered our feeders, I am looking forward to a "gross" (as a collective group of Grosbeaks are called - typical, eh?)  of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to return to our feeders as they migrate through northern Illinois during both the spring and the fall.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Swamp Sparrow; May Bird Migration to Northern Illinois

Swamp Sparrow, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve; 5/1/2011
Another Summer Sparrow that returned to northern Illinois on May 1 was the Swamp Sparrow (Above). I almost mistook this sparrow as a Chipping Sparrow... (see my  6/12 post: ) ... both with a rufous crown and black eyeline. But the Swamp Sparrow has a more gray head, whereas the Chipping Sparrow has a very white eyebrow above the eyeline.

Swamp Sparrow, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve; 5/1/2011
Swamp Sparrows aren't as common as the Chippers, so I was happy to see a couple of them foraging on the ground in Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve. Northen Illinois is on the southern edges of Swampy's summer range. They are more common from Wisconsin and Michican northward into most of Canada save for British Columbia, and the Yukon. As you can see in the photo (Above), Swampies have a clean gray breast and belly, lighter malar with a black line separating the gray cheek with the lighter malar, and a black eyeline behind the eye.  as I stated above, it has a rufous crown, tail and wings which are contrasted with black stripes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lark Sparrow; May Bird Migration to Northern Illinois

A Lark Sparrow, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve; 5/1/2011
 My favorite sparrow, the Lark Sparrow (Above), has returned to Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve, in the exact location I saw him one year ago. See my post about how the Lark Sparrow made me take notice and appreciate all sparrows:

A pair of Lark Sparrows, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve; 5/1/2011
 A year ago in May, when I was dissing (sorry - teenager slang for 'disrespecting' from the school I teach at) sparrows and not taking photos of them, ignoring them for more colorful and interesting birds, I accidently ran across a Lark Sparrow, which I never heard of nor saw before. The Lark Sparrow, as it turned out, is very beautiful with its boldly patterned head of rufous, black and white, and not as common around the area as other sparrows. By ignoring this beautiful bird, thinking it was "just an old sparrow," I didn't try to take a decent picture of it, and was sorry afterwards while browsing through my photos. So when I saw a pair of Lark Sparrows foraging on the ground near the same spot I saw last year's Lark, I was happy to have a second chance of getting a decent photograph. These sparrows which changed my attitude about sparrows forever, not only gave me a second chance, but thirds and fourths as well. They stuck around, let me get pretty close and stayed in the open for me to take their portraits. Eventually a man walking his dog scared the pair of Larks into a nearby tree. But they were still on an open branch in clear view for me take some more pics (Above).
Lark Sparrow, Blackhawk Springs Forest preserve; 5/1/2011
Although to me they are not very common in the places I do my hiking and birding, my The Sibley Field Guide to Birds says they are common in grassy fields with scattered trees (exactly the area I saw these guys). But Illinois is near the eastern edge of their summer grounds (they also will reach into Indiana), but they are more common from the Mississippi River westward to the Pacific, from New Mexico and the northern edges of Texas as far north as the southern regions of Canada.

I saw the same two Lark Sparrows a couple of weeks later in the same area of Blackhawk Springs and another one in a different area of the Preserve. So I am counting on these guys to be summer regulars in the area. Thank you, Larks, for giving me the proper appreciation of the sparrow world. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

House Wren; May Bird Migration to Northern Illinois

House Wren, Rock Cut State Park; 6/5/2011.
 House Wrens, the most common of all the wrens in our area, arrived by the hundreds (it seemed) the first day of May. They were bubbling away with their loud songs everywhere I went birding - Rock Cut State Park (Above), the forest preserves, suburban parks, along roadsides, and our backyard. They arrived from their winter grounds along the southern bely of the U.S. as wel as Mexico. They will spread north from coast to coast and cover much of the southern half of Canada.
House Wren, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve; 5/1/2011
House Wrens aren't much to look at colorwise, as they are somewhat drab, grayish-brown overall with a criss-cross pattern on their wings and tail. But they are fun to watch as they flit from branch to branch holding their chekerboard tail up high (Above), which makes them easy to identify.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wood Thrushes & May Bird Migration to Northern Illinois

Offsetting the cold slow month of April as far as bird migration goes, May roared in with a vengence. The first week of May brought some very nice temperatures and then we could finally say, "Let the bird migration to Northern Illinois begin!" Within the first week of  May, a couple of birding outings brought me 28 FOYs and 6 new birds to add to my Life List (285-290, #291 came later in the month - Blackpoll Warbler- my 5/27 Post). Below is the list of birds that arrived to area in May, that I have seen and will stay the summer here (Rockford, IL):
Least Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Ovenbird, Eastern Kingbird, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Wood Thrush, House Wren, Lark Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Lousianna Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Wood Peewee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Purple Martin, and Sora Rail.

The secretive Wood Thrush, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve,
 Rockford, IL; 5/1/2011
The first day of May

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spotted Sandpiper: Late April Migration to Northern Illinois

I spotted this Spotted Sandpiper in Rock Cut State Park, IL; 4/29/2011.
It's no wonder that the sandpiper I most often see is the Spotted Sandpiper, since it is the most widespread breeding sandpiper in North America. It likes ponds and streams on rocky shores, but I have seen it on sand bars as well. I have observed the Spotted Sandpiper along the Kishwaukee River in Espenscheid Forest Preserve, along Lake Pierce in Rock Cut State Park, as well as along the shores of the lake in Bauman Park. Many times I see it at rest standing on one leg (Above).

A BIF shot of a Spotted Sandpiper, Bauman Park, Rockford, IL; 5/5/2010.
The first time  I identified a Spotted Sandpiper was a year ago in Bauman Park. It was already in low evening light and the sun was down, so I was lucky enough to get a somewhat decent BIF shot of it to show its white wing stripe (Above). These sandpipers have olive-brown upperparts with white underparts dotted with bold black spots. It has dull yellow legs, and a black eye-stripe underneath a long white eyebrow, and a long bright orange bill with a black tip.

A "teeter-tail" wading in the shallows of the Kishwaukee River, Espenscheid Forest Preserve, Rockford, IL; 5/5/2011.
Spotted Sandpipers bob their tails up and down while walking or wading (Above). When they feel threatened their teetering becomes faster and they are sometimes known as the "teeter-tail." They breed from northern Alaska and Canada and across much of the northern and midsection of the U.S. It spends winters along the Pacific coast south from British Columbia and across southern states, the Gulf States and south to Central and much of South America.

A "fling" of Spotted Sanpipers resting on a downed tree in Pierce Lake,
Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/8/2011.
Now for my favorite tidbit - a collective group of Sandpipers are known as ... (get this) ... a "bind," a "fling," a "hill," or a "timestep."
I can't wait to take notice of my next timestep of teeter-tails.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Green Heron: Late April Migration to Northern Illinois

A great reflection of a Green Heron waiting patiently for a meal to happen by,
Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 5/8/2011.
Green Herons are another arrival in late April to northern Illinois. What I like about these herons is I'll never know where I might see one. Most often they are at the water's edge (Above), but I have also seen them perched high in trees (Below), at times not even near any water, usually in a quiet out of the way place, but sometimes near crowds, as is the case on June 5, this year.
A Green Heron resting in a tree, Rock Cut State Park; 4/29/2011.
Earlier this month while hiking at Rock Cut State Park (one of my favorite places to bird in the Rockford area), I was walking through a picnic area which was quite busy, when a Green Heron alit on a log at the edge of Lake Pierce in front of a picnic table crowded with people. I was surprised that it would land near so many people. It then put on a display of craning its neck to twice the height of its own body, which I have never seen before - and I have seen plenty of Green Herons (even one eating a frog in one of my posts a year ago - ). Green Herons are inevitably described as a short stocky type of water bird, but when it stretches its neck out, "Short and stocky" aren't the words I would use to descibe it (see Below).

A Green Heron in a busy picnic area of Rock Cut State Park, IL ...

.. it raised its crest (which I didn't know it had ) ...

... then it stretched its neck straight up in the air as if to show off its streaks; 6/5/2011.

Now I've heard about and seen photographs of Green Herons stretching its neck a bit to reach out and catch a fish, but this Heron (Above) just started stretching its neck straight up in the air - it wasn't reaching for anything ... just stretching. A little stretching , I guess, will never hurt anyone. Another neck-stretching pic below...

"How tall can I get?"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gray Catbird; Late April Migration to Northern Illinois

A Gray Catbird in the brushpile in our back yard, Rockford, IL; 4/30/2011.
After all the time I spent trying to chase down Gray Catbirds for the past couple of years, one happened to be sitting out in the open in our back yard one weekend at the end of April (Above). Catbirds are very good at hiding in the dense thickets, and because of their dull gray coloring, they are hard to spot. I hear them all the time, but usually I only see small partial glimpses of them, as they sneak around the underbrush feeding on insects and berries trying hard not to be seen.

Another blurry Gray Catbird hiding from me, Bauman Park, Rockford, IL; 5/4/2010.
These Catbirds started arriving to northern Illinois in late April, and once they arrived they inundated the area - all over the place - in the State Parks, the City Parks, and the Forest Preserves. The only problem is they are incognito - all sound, little sight - a head here, a tail there - but a whole body? No way! Most of my pics looked like the one (Above) - an out of focus and a half-hidden bird.

A Gray Catbird visited our yard, Rockford, IL; 4/30/2011.
 So it was to my surprise that as I was on the back deck watching something move in the brush pile in the corner of the lot, out pops a Gray Catbird sitting on a railroad tie in the open (Above) and not only that - it stayed there long enough for me to go inside, get my camera, focus and click. Finally a good picture of a Gray Catbird! This picture shows the rufous patch underneath its tail that I seldom get to see.

A Gray Catbird, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/8/2011.
Gray Catbird, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/8/2011.
 Well, wouldn't you know it. After the Catbird visited our backyard, I've been seeing these guys in the open all month (during May), and have several more good pics of it (two Above), and even a series of pics of two Catbirds courting eachother (Below).

Two Gray Catbirds flirting, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/8/2011.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher: Late April Migration to Northern Illinois

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Phoenix AZ; 12/31/2009
Another late April arrival to northern Illinois is the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. The first time I ever saw a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Above) was while I was hiking in the South Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix, Arizona, two winters ago. Little did I know, that when I would become a more serious birder that I would hear see many of these little guys (only 4 1/2" long) in the future.
A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher building a nest, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/8/2011.
Blue Gray Gnatcatchers are quite common in forests and thickets throughout the U.S. from coast to coast. However, northern Illinois is at its most northern range in the Midwest for the summer - but they do migrate into the northeast states as far as Maine. In winter they will travel as far south as Mexico, Central America, and along the Gulf Coast States. As their name suggests, they have a bluish/grayish look about them, bluer on the crown and nape; grayer on the back and wings. They are lighter underneath and males will have a black forehead, eyebrow and tail (Above).

A BIF of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher always on the move, Rock Cut State park, IL; 5/8/2011.

A nice look at a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher's White eye-ring and black eyebrow and forehead, Rock Cut State park, IL; 5/8/2011.
Although many birdbooks state that these gnatcatchers will spend time in thickets, I most often hear them from flitting from branch to branch high in the tree tops. They are so tiny that I often don't see them until after I've heard their thin weak nasal and buzzing notes. And they don't stay still very long - always moving. I was lucky to see the one (Above) fairly low while it was busy working on a nest.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eastern Towhee; Late April Migration to Northern Illinois

Late April brought home to Rockford a few new birds. Eastern Towhees (Below), Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (Tomorrow's post), Grey Catbirds (Sat.'s Post), and Spotted Sandpipers (Sun.'s Post) are among those that I have seen and photographed that will spend the summer here.
An Eastern Towhee singing at the top of his bird lungs,
Espenscheid Forest Preserve, Rockford, IL; 5/1/2011.

To our pleasant surprise, this female Eastern Towhee showed up in our back yard, Rockford, IL; 4/28/2011.
One morning while getting ready for school, I did my usual check out the back window at the bird feeding stations, and I saw a bird I have never seen in our yard - at first I thought it was an off-colored Robin with a white breast (Above - bottom). But it was too stocky to be a Robin and it didn't have the Robin bill. I just couldn't place what kind of bird it was until I had to look in my trusty Sibley's Field Guide To Birds. Finally I realized it was a female Eastern Towhee - now if it was a male Towhee, I would have recognized it immediately, but the brown head and wings threw me off (Below). I apologize to all females of the world for my malecentric birding. This Towhee became the 29th speciesof bird to be seen in our yard this year. 

This female Eastern Towhee showed up in our back yard, Rockford, IL; 4/28/2011.

These beautiful Towhees are aptly named as they are found in the eastern half of the country and cross slightly into southern central Canada during summer, but only in the southeast during winter. They very rarely go south of the border to Mexico.

Male Eastern Towhee, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 5/8/2011.
Male Eastern Towhees (Above and very Top) sport an all black head and wings with one white patch at the base of its primaries. Their rufous-colored flanks are contrasted with a white belly and yellow under the tail and under the wings. Females are brown where their male counterparts are black, otherwise they have all the other same colorings and markings.

 BIF of a male Eastern Towhee, Rock Cut State Park; 5/8/2011.
One of my favorite BIF shots I've taken this spring was of a backlit male Eastern Towhee in Rock Cut State Park (Above).